In this era of tweets, blogs and social media posts, today’s athletes seem to be more than willing to share their innermost thoughts at the click of a mouse or the tap of a keyboard.
But depending on whom you ask, that may not necessarily be a good thing.
Emerson Etem has some of the most gifted hands in hockey. That is, as long as he keeps them on a stick and not a cell phone keyboard.
The talented forward who was the No. 1 pick of the Anaheim Ducks in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft didn’t score any points with local hockey fans for his tweets about the host city of the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship. It appears that the Long Beach, Calif., native finds the nightlife in Buffalo to be a little lacking.
“Buffalo is a ghost town!!” wrote the second-year player with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League. “The worst city ever, it makes Medicine Hat look like paradise, never thought ide (sic) say that.”
After a Tuesday morning skate, Etem faced the fire of local media by apologizing for what he called a “poorly written Tweet.” He went on to do his best damage control to bring local fans back into his corner. That’s probably a smart move since Etem and his U.S. teammates plan on calling Buffalo home until Jan. 5, when the gold-medal game takes place at the HSBC Arena.
“I think it’s a great host city, and I’m definitely happy to be here,” Etem said. “I think it was interpreted in many different ways. My point to get across was not to put down a great host city like this. I know a lot of people put in time and effort to make this thing possible. For me, it’s the middle of winter. People aren’t out. It’s really cold outside. Like I said, the point for me was not to put down Buffalo.”
Still, the announced crowd of 12,750 fans at Tuesday night’s 6-1 U.S. victory over Slovakia, didn’t seem to be willing to forgive, or forget. From the time he was announced as a starter on a line with Ryan Bourque and Nick Bjugstad, the 18-year-old right wing received a chilly reception every time he touched the puck.“Of course it was loud and you could definitely hear it but it’s all in fun,” said Etem, who mustered six of Team USA’s 57 shots on goal. “It’s a hockey town and it’s expected, but I had a blast out there.”
Still, fans may have a hard time holding a grudge. Late in the second period, with the U.S. squad already cruising to a 5-1 lead, Etem picked up a pass from Bjugstad, deked to his backhand and ripped a wrist shot that sent Slovakian goaltender Dominik Riecicky to the showers.
“I don’t think he was expecting it to come,” Etem said. “Maybe he was expecting the pass, but I was able to get a quick shot on net and it surprised him.”
Etem already has fond memories of competing in the Buffalo area, having won a USA Hockey National Championship in 2007 as a member of the Shattuck-St. Mary’s 18 & Under team. As the youngest member of the Shattuck squad, that included Derek Stepan, who captained last year’s gold-medal winning U.S. National Junior Team, Etem finished with four points while showing flashes of great things to come.
While the U.S. coaching staff may want to get a better handle on the team’s future texts, tweets or what have you, head coach Keith Allain didn’t seem all that upset by the minor distraction caused by Etem’s self expression.
“I thought he played all right. He scored a goal,” Allain said. “He dealt with it. As a professional athlete you have to learn to deal with things if you want to be successful.”
For the record, Allain’s comment took up slightly more than the 144 characters allowed in an official Twitter feed.